For Cleveland sports fans, nothing is more heartbreaking than getting THIS close and falling short of the mark, again. It happened to our beloved Indians in both '95 and '97. Those series were ours for the taking, but the curse crept in - at the last moment in '97 - and stole victory out of our palpitating, sweaty hands. We consoled our blue-collar tears with cold ones and moved on.
Then came 2003 and the King. LeBron James was our own home-grown hero. We kept a hopeful (and watchful) eye on LeBron, waiting to see what would happen. Would he live up to the potential, the hype that surrounded him not only here in Cleveland, but across the sports world? WWJD? Many in Cleveland thought he was The Chosen One we'd all been waiting for, the superstar who would carry the city and FINALLY bring us a ring. And he DID bring the Cavs to the NBA Finals for the first time ever in 2007, but they were unceremoniously swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs.
Most sports towns think they are special, think their fans are special, think their brand is special. But Cleveland is different, because we ARE special. In every way possible, we lose. We lose with the weather, we lose with the economy, we lose with the school systems, the leadership and, worst of all, we lose with the sports teams. Charlie Sheen may be winning - but Cleveland sure as hell isn't.
However, no matter how much we lose (which, unfortunately, is a lot), we keep getting up to try again, another day, another year. And most of all, we treat our sports heroes like champs, even when they lose. In return, all we ask is loyalty. This was especially the case with LeBron James, whom we embraced with all our hearts, who was special, who was different. We expected him to appreciate the "specialness" of being from Cleveland (well, Akron, to be exact). We expected him to make us proud for all the city had given him (and his mother Gloria, a vexing entity in her own right). We expected him to break the curse.
The bottom line is Cleveland had personal as well as professional expectations of LeBron James, and clearly he began to feel constrained and shackled by those expectations. Looking beyond the extremely poor judgment of "The Decision," which cost LeBron droves of fans worldwide and a hometown, it's now easy to see why LeBron left.
In Miami, the only expectation on LeBron is to be a great basketball player, something we all know he is. In Cleveland, he was expected to be more than he could deliver. We wanted a hero, a role model, a man of character, a champion to bring back some hope and honor to a beleaguered town of broken souls, to be THE MAN.
LeBron did what any man with more talent than courage, more brawn than brain, and more money than sense would do - he went where the grass is greener (and the weather's better) and most importantly, where he could live life with lowered expectations. In Miami LeBron doesn't have to be The Man, just one of a triumvirate of Men with D-Wade and Chris Bosh.
Good luck, LeBron, you are free to win now without the burden of expectation on your broad but cowardly shoulders.